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[flagged] iRobot (Roomba) shares customer data with Google and other affiliates (irobot.com)
72 points by lettergram 71 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 38 comments



Thanks, I don't need a vacuum that sends data to you, or anyone else. It's not necessary to the function of the product. The convenience does not outweigh the cost of my privacy, and I'm certainly not going to pay you to extract it from me. You should be paying me to use your product if you want the data.


I don't disagree but the attitude in corporate America is simply anything for profit is good and justified. iRobot will happily argue their service will cost more unless they share your data when what they really mean is you'll have to offset this new revenue stream for them if you want them to stop.


So it all comes back to regulation, right? iRobot does this because there is no law against it. AT&T is walking back its selling of location data after the online outrage kicked in, but they'll go back to selling it once everyone has forgotten. Facebook and Google sell your data because there is no law against it.

Push your legislator(s) for regulation of your data privacy rights. It is the only way these encroachments on citizen privacy get fixed. Europe does this right (<3 GDPR), and the US has a lot of room for improvement.


edit: lost interest in the battle. /Whiteflag


I realize you're being sarcastic but customers don't agree to it in any reasonable sense: shrinkwrap agreements are notoriously long winded and obscure and there is usually no way to opt out. iRobot knows if the product actually said "Shares your personal data" on the box it would negativity affect sales.

So yes I agree with the person above you who said regulation is the answer. If you make it impossible to share data then it's not longer a revenue stream or a competitive advantage and companies can focus their efforts on improving the product for the consumer to drive profit rather than milking the customer for data and selling it.


So, it's stated clearly on the outside of the box so you can read it and make an informed decision before you purchase it? Or is it hidden inside, in tiny print on a leaflet somewhere for you to discover after you've brought it home and opened it? Or you have to go to the website and hunt for the "revised" version?


> you'll have to offset this new revenue stream for them if you want them to stop

I find this argument odd. It's like saying I should be penalised because companies can't harvest and sell my organs, since they're being deprived of a "revenue stream". Sure, collecting personal data isn't currently against the law, but the idea that there has to be a compensation for a "potential revenue stream" is ridiculous right?


> I don't disagree but the attitude in corporate America is simply anything for profit is good and justified. iRobot will happily argue their service will cost more unless they share your data when what they really mean is you'll have to offset this new revenue stream for them if you want them to stop.

That argument is becoming less compelling by the day. I used to be pretty libertarian, but now I'm looking forward to the day these companies are slapped with the restrictive regulation that they're totally asking for.


It seems that these days you should assume that any product which needs an Internet connection to function is going to phone home through that. There's certainly a market for "smart, but not too smart" devices; unfortunately I doubt it's very large.


It's another reason why I quite using fitbit. There is no reason at all you need internet connectivity to send the data 3 feet from the device to the phone via bluetooth. They don't need to collect the data at all, and since there is no opt-out, I just quit using it.


When I worked in San Francisco, my employer gave everyone fitbits and held weekly "most steps" competitions. I wore mine for three days before realizing the device was telling my company which hours I was most active.

Needless to say, I never won any of our competitions.


We bought a fitbit for a relative, I took the feature "no smartphone required" to mean it would work standalone (or at least offline with your laptop) but of course I was mistaken.


Did you replace it with anything ?


No. I go on regular walks on a regular route, so I know how far it is after using it a few times. I don't really need to know down to the step how far I walked each day, just that I at least did what my goal is.


Actually with fitbit there is a reason. You can install the fitbit app on multiple devices, and your tracker can sync with any of them. The internet connectivity is basically so they can keep a single source of truth so that your different devices don't get out of sync. This becomes even more true if you have multiple fitbit devices on one fitbit account (or indeed if you have it set to use your phones inbuilt pedometer stuff)


Great, let it be an option for those who have more than one device instead of forcing everyone?


You're being deliberately misleading to stir the pot. It says they use Google Analytics and Ads, just like the other 3/4 of the internet.


Why does a vacuum cleaner need Google Analytics or Ads?


The privacy policy covers irobot.com, their products, and their mobile apps.

Their website, marketing tools, and apps are the ones that connect to third parties. See below:

Information collected automatically.

We and our third party service providers may collect certain types of usage information when you visit our Website or mobile Apps, read our emails, or otherwise engage with us. We use this information to enhance and personalize your user experience, to monitor and improve our websites and services, and for other internal purposes. In some instances, we and our third party service providers may combine this usage information with personal information. If we do combine any usage information with personal information, the combined information will be treated by us as personal information.

We typically collect this information through a variety of tracking technologies, including cookies, web beacons, embedded scripts, location-identifying technologies, file information, and similar technology (collectively, “tracking technologies”). We, and our third party partners, use tracking technologies to automatically collect usage and device information, such as:


If you scroll up from where the link sends you, you will see a section called “Information We Collect from Registered Devices Equipped with Smart Technology“, which completely negates the premise in the title.


I always wonder how many people read only titles. In this case it's enough to glance the fragment in question to realize the title is imprecise.


WTF.

Why are these machines on the internet? I have one ordered that will arrive in a few days, I really hope that I can turn that off. I don't want any "internet of things to be hacked" devices in my house.


I haven’t connected mine to the Internet. It still works, you just can’t control it or get diagnostics through your phone.


OK, this is confusing. They explicitly say they share with Google/Amazon if you use Assistant/Alexa, which makes sense, but then also "From time to time, with selected third parties who we think may offer you products or services you may enjoy." So I don't think it's fair to say that they're giving your data to Google unsolicited, but they're definitely sharing it with SOMEONE unsolicited.


I must be missing something. Where do they say they send data to google?

Are we talking about the Assistant/Alexa integration, which sounds fairly focused? I guess the key question is whether or not they are sending data when you aren't using Assistant or Alexa.

Or are we talking about the fact that they are using ad networks to show ads? The latter isn't anything different than any site that sends ads.


> We may share your personal information in the instances described below... From time to time, with selected third parties who we think may offer you products or services you may enjoy.

In other words, "whenever we feel like it." I'm not sure why they bothered with the other clauses.


I recently learned that there is a name for this phenomenon where our reality is being increasingly digitized and financialized - "surveillance capitalism".

Surveillance capitalism is a novel market form and a specific logic of capitalist accumulation that was first described in a 2014 essay by business theorist and social scientist Shoshana Zuboff. She characterized it as a "radically disembedded and extractive variant of information capitalism" based on the commodification of "reality" and its transformation into behavioral data for analysis and sales.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surveillance_capitalism


The title is needlessly alarmist. The linked privacy policy covers the various robots as well as irobot.com and their mobile apps.

Most of the comments here are about their robots so let me copy and paste the relevant passage from the policy below:

Information We Collect from Registered Devices Equipped with Smart Technology.

Some of our Robots are equipped with smart technology which allows the Robots to transmit data wirelessly to the Service. When you register your Robot with the online App, we collect information about the Robot, such as a Robot name and device number, and information about the Robot and/or App usage, feature usage, in-App transactions, technical specifications, crashes, and other information about how you use your Robot and the product App. For example, the Robot could collect and transmit information about the Robot’s function and use statistics, such as battery life and health, start and stop times, and number of missions.

Certain Robot models are equipped to collect information about the environment in which the Robot is deployed. For example, the Robot collects information about its movement throughout the environment to create a location ‘map’ of the space accessible to the Robot. The spatial map is a digital representation of the Robot's domain and does not include recognizable images from the location environment. To create the map, the Robot converts computer-vision images to abstract features and landmarks to generate a spatial representation of the Robot’s territory indicating the presence of objects, obstacles, floor coverings like carpet or tile, WiFi signal strength, and dirt detection.

We use this information to collect and analyze statistics and usage data, diagnose and fix technology problems, enhance device performance, and improve user experience. We may use this information to provide you personalized communications, including marketing and promotional messages, such as emails providing product order information when your device indicates a battery needs replacement. We consider location mapping data to be sensitive, confidential information and we do not share this information with third parties for marketing purposes. Please visit our Data Security page to learn more.

Our Robots do not transmit this information unless you register your device online and connect to WiFi, Bluetooth, or connect to the internet via another method. It is possible to use our smart technology Robots without WiFi or Bluetooth data transmission, simply by disconnecting your WiFi or Bluetooth from the device or by never connecting it at all. You can also choose through your settings in the App to not to have location mapping data transmitted to us.


> Some of our Robots are equipped with smart technology which allows the Robots to transmit data wirelessly to the Service.

As far as I know all their current Roomba lineup is equipped with that technology. I actually just bought the last non-wifi Roomba I could find, specifically to avoid it.


You don’t have to connect the Roomba to the Internet. My 690 isn’t connected and it works fine.


Can you program schedules without wifi? It's missing the scheduling buttons mine has, and the product description makes it seem like you need to use the app for that:

https://store.irobot.com/default/roomba-vacuuming-robot-vacu...


> The title is needlessly alarmist.

Yup. Flagged.


When did they start doing this? The one I've got doesn't have any form of radio.


Is there an alternative to Roomba that doesn't have mandatory telemetry?


I bought a cheap one off amazon on black Friday for like 180$ and it works great. It may have fancy online features but I've never even tried to find out that as there is not much point in automating it further nor do the fancy ones solve the current automation problems (avoiding liquids like vomit/pee from your pet so you still need to be at home when you run it, emptying the bin, cleaning the bristles, avoiding problematic items that will clog it like cords).


You can use any Roomba without connecting it to WiFi/Bluetooth. You lose the ability to manage it with your phone, though.


I like Roombas, but I refuse to buy any that uses Wifi. It's totally unnecessary, opens up the possibility of privacy invasions, and a smartphone app is a UX regression over physical buttons.

I really wish they'd develop a mapping Roomba that did all processing onboard, and could be totally configured using built-in controls. I'd buy it in a second.


I assume all the processing is done onboard, FTA:

"It is possible to use our smart technology Robots without WiFi or Bluetooth data transmission, simply by disconnecting your WiFi or Bluetooth from the device or by never connecting it at all. You can also choose through your settings in the App to not to have location mapping data transmitted to us."




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